Two years before Little Miss Sunshine hit theaters I saw the trailer for Everything Is Illuminated. The last minute of the trailer includes a clip from a song I now know as DeVotchKa’s “How it Ends”. It’s about 7 minutes long, but please – listen to the whole thing:
The song is beautiful; lyrics of trial and fulfillment sung with anguish over melancholy instrumentation that still manages to convey a sense of loss and emptiness. I was pretty bitter that the song wasn’t actually in the film. I didn’t yet know the name of the song in the trailer and, lacking my current Google-fu, didn’t find out for a while.
Back to Little Miss Sunshine. The movie opens with what I thought – back then – to be a cover of “How it Ends”. I was appalled. It felt a bit sappy, lacked the lovely/sad vocals, and played over a tonally inconsistent introductory prelude. Of course, it turns out DeVotchKa was responsible for much of the soundtrack, which means “The Winner Is” represents the band’s own retooling of an existing song.
Thanks to the magic of subscription-based streaming audio services and their assorted discovery algorithms, I eventually re-encountered “How it Ends”. The problem, however, is that because of the huge musical overlap between versions and their common composer, you always end up hearing both. So that helped me figure out why the soundtrack tune rubs me the wrong way. Aside from the aforementioned lack of vocals, the extended intro is axed in favor of a quick arrival of the cutesy accordion. But really, there are two things that bug me the most.
First, there’s the jaunty pizzicato strings, completely absent from “How it Ends”:
And then we get the glockenspiel which, while probably attempting to connect with the childish element of the film, robs the original of its gravity:
I understand this is exceedingly nitpicky, but when you love a piece of art, it can really stink when it’s altered, even by the artist. I’m sure it doesn’t help to have “The Winner Is” at the start of what I found to be a predictably and disappointing movie.